In The Kitchen With…Lissa

InTheKitchenYeah, it’s me. But you know, I was thinking, we should have some guests come by specifically for kitchen days. I mean, I have several guests who are coming by over the next month or so, but none for In The Kitchen With…segments. I’m going to have to work on that.

In the meantime, you’re stuck with me. I don’t have anything new that I’ve cooked or baked  or made.

I just got back from Lori Foster’s Reader Author Get Together in Cincinnati and while it was a good time, the food at conferences leaves a lot to be desired. This is not the coordinator’s fault. This is… I don’t know. Maybe it’s our fault. We choose this diet or that diet, this fad or that fad. We have more medical issues and allergies. We have more choices of sugar-free, fat free, carb-free or low carb, dairy free, soy free, gluten free, nut free, etc… Conference hotels can’t handle this. A lot of restaurants can’t handle this without it being a big deal.

Even hotel restaurant changed their menu and upscaled it and that just didn’t fit with a lot of us. But then, we’re not their typical clientele.

I was witness to this with a dear friend…she’s a reader, completely self-less with her time, one of the least judgmental people I know. She’s beautiful. Doesn’t ingest chemicals or sugars or toxins into her body. She eats a certain way and has to. She’s very disciplined about it. And conference food doesn’t cut it for her. It can’t. She’s one of several hundred people, quite a few of who can’t or choose not to eat what is fixed for the masses. Because of this, a good sized handful of us eat at surrounding restaurants. (It’s good to have choices).

I watched her order dinner at a restaurant. She was good to go with their gluten-free menu, but once she started asking questions, the process became more difficult, more delicate, more intricate. Having worked in restaurants and hotels myself, I can appreciate both sides of the issue. Trying to please the majority, but still being flexible enough to take care of the minority. Sauces and bases and coatings and such are pre-made in a lot of cases. The pace of a kitchen is frantic at best. There’s not always time to make a special sauce or another batch of eggs without the things you can’t have. Some can be altered, some can’t.

They took care of her in the end, but I was completely enthralled by the process. She’s very diligent and very disciplined. She’s an amazing woman and I learned a lot about tolerance from her over the weekend. She was patient and kind and even with that, I think she scared the shit out of one of the waiters.

I remember at Authors After Dark last year, a girl needed a gluten free plate and when she asked the wait staff in the hotel for one, she was given a plate of vegetables.

There has to be some consideration, some back up plan, especially when dinners and lunches are made mandatory or schedules are so packed with activities and running from point A to point C because there’s not enough time to stop at point B.

That being said, I bring a load of snacks with me. I don’t eat white sugar, white flour but maybe a few times a month, or several other things that are common at conferences. I don’t eat out a lot either. Maybe two or three times a month at best. It messes with my stomach and I’m miserable for a week or so after. So I bring snacks and drinks and coffee and I am constantly drinking water. I eat a lot of whole grains, whole foods, and organics. So, there are ways around it all until I can get outside and go to a restaurant where there are more choices.

As much as I love food, it’s the one part of conferences I don’t enjoy having to deal with.

Needless to say, I’m glad to be home. It’s been nice being in my kitchen, eating the way I’ve become accustomed to eating. I’m glad to have my organic milk, my sprouted grain breads, my Bear Naked granola, my organic half and half, Trader Joe’s. I feel better and not near as fuzzy brained. So, yes, even I’m difficult.

I have another long weekend coming up next week of conference hotel food and eating out. I’ll have a little more than a month to get my system back in line before Authors After Dark.

These coordinators for these conferences to the best they can, work with the best information they have. They can’t and the hotels can’t please us all with all our different issues. And yes, it’s an inconvenience to bring coolers of food and stuff, but if it works in the long run and allows for a more enjoyable time with readers, then it’s worth it.

(Of course, the Cincinnati Marriott in Westchester did have ice cream on the menu, by the pint, and I was able to buy ice cream for one of my very favorite friends and authors, Amanda Usen… That right there, was worth everything else.)

~lissa

 

In The Kitchen With…Pinterest

InTheKitchenMe. Again. And Pinterest, too.

I try a lot and I do mean A LOT of recipes that I find on Pinterest. I try a lot of recipes from the 100+ food blogs I follow via RSS feeds. A few times I’ve been disappointed, and only once have I ever had to throw anything away uneaten.

I can look at a recipe and see in my head the modifications I need to make, what would work for the comfort food palate of my family. And when it comes to trying recipes found online, or even in cookbooks, I have found this intuitiveness life saving, especially since I cook from scratch more than I cook from a box.

On Mother’s Day, I tried a recipe I found that was very simple and very delicious. I wanted shrimp and I wanted pasta. So, I found a recipe for Creamy Cajun Shrimp Pasta.

The only modification I made was using whole grain penne pasta instead of linguine. It was delicious. You can click here for the recipe.

The internet is an invaluable tool for cooking questions, suggestions, substitutions, recipes, and general or very specific information.

There are several schools of thought when it comes to food. To fuel. To stay alive. To enjoy. I fall into the ‘to enjoy’ category. Food is a pleasure. It should taste good, whether you’re eating very healthy or not, it should still taste good and be prepared with good quality ingredients. I say this and yes, I’m one of the fat chicks. I have what I like. I expand my palate often. But some days, I go all out.

I’ve eaten health food and wanted to gag knowing that with a little hot sauce, a piece of cardboard would taste better. I’ve eaten no carb, low carb, vegetarian, sometimes vegan, full fat, no fat, diet, non-diet, sugar free, and loaded with sugar. I love trying new things, cooking new things, introducing my family to new things. I love farmer’s markets, local farms, local dairy, and gourmet.

Food is a pleasure to me. Life sometimes is full of drama and sadness. Life is also short. Everything in moderation is the key. So is changing things up. Food is also inspiration for my writing. I love foodie romances and I love writing them. One of my favorites is Amanda Usen’s Scrumptious and Luscious and I’m dying to get my hands on her next book, Into The Fire. Cooking and baking are also one of the ways I relieve stress. Getting lost in a recipe, knowing I have to focus my brain on it or I may end up blowing up my kitchen, helps clear my mind and relax me.

I hope you’ll give the recipe a try. It was truly, very very good. And check out my Pinterest boards, Deliciousness-Savory and Deliciousness-Sweet. I bet you’ll find something fun that makes your mouth water.

~lissa

In the kitchen with…Lissa

Today’s recipe is boiled peanuts. In the crock-pot. Why? Because it’s game day. Today marks the start of the NCAA 2012 College Football season.

My team doesn’t play tonight or tomorrow night. My team doesn’t play until Saturday night against, well, we won’t discuss it. See, my Florida State Seminoles like to start off the season with a little pre-season play against teams who, we should be able to win over if the mood and gods and tide are on our side. Otherwise… Yeah, again, we just don’t discuss it. My second team, Cincinnati Bearcats, don’t start playing until next Thursday night…

What we do discuss is that it IS game day. It actually is game weekend! There are games from tonight straight through to Monday night. I am stoked. I am excited. I am bouncing up and down in my chair. And be very glad you can’t see that… I have the FSU serving platters out, the cups out, the t-shirts and hats and flag and banners. It’s football, y’all. It’s college football, y’all. It’s college football in the South, y’all. Let’s play.

Boiled peanuts. I can’t go to a college football game without getting a cup of boiled peanuts. They’re sticky from the salt water brine, they’re hot (both in temperature and if you want, taste), they’re a staple in the South, especially in the summer/fall.

I made mine this year in the slow cooker. It took 18 hours. I added water when it needed it. I taste tested the peanuts a few times. But otherwise, I just left them to cook. Awesome!

The following recipe is from the 2006 edition of the Southern Living Slow Cooker Cookbook…

Yield: Makes 18 cups

Cook time: 18 Hours

Prep time: 3 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds raw peanuts, in shell
  • 3/4 to 1 cup salt
  • 12 cups water

Preparation

Combine all ingredients in a 5-or 6-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH 18 hours or until peanuts are soft. Drain peanuts before serving or storing. Store in zip-top plastic bags in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

Cajun Boiled Peanuts: Add 1 (3-ounce) package boil-in-bag shrimp and crab boil and 1/3 to 1/2 cup hot sauce (we tested with Frank’s) to slow cooker before cooking.

Freeze It!: Freeze these peanuts in zip-top freezer bags up to 2 months. Reheat them in the microwave before serving.

Note:

Slow-Cooker Size: 5- or 6-quart

Adjust salt to your taste… better to start with less and add more 🙂

Y’all have a great day!

~lissa

In the Kitchen with…Fallon Blake

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen especially when I’m stressed or I need to plot something out for a book. Baking has a calming effect on me and helps me think. Cupcakes are my drug of choice. Yes, I’m addicted. I can admit that. I thought I’d share with you one of my all time favorite cupcake recipes.

Chai Latte Cupcakes

Recipe originally from  http://www.theppk.com/ (best Vegan site EVAH) and also appears in the book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Ingredients
1 cup soy or rice milk
4 black teabags (I used chai tea instead. I like them to really have that spice flavor)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup vanilla soy yogurt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of ground white or black pepper

Buttercream Icing
6 tablespoons vegan margarine, softened (I use Earth’s Balance)
3 tablespoons soymilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1 tablespoon sugar for the tops

Directions
Preheat oven to 375F. In a small saucepan heat soymilk until almost boiling, then add the tea bags, cover the pan, and remove from the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes then squeeze the teabags to release as much tea as possible before removing the bags from the soymilk.

In a large bowl whisk together oil, yogurt, sugar, vanilla and tea mixture until lumps are worked out. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and pepper into wet ingredients. Mix until large lumps disappear; some small lumps are okay. Pour batter into lined cupcake tins and bake 20 to 22 minutes until a sharp knife inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

For icing: Beat together butter, milk and vanilla until smooth. Add sugar a cup at a time until you get the consistency you want. If icing seems too runny, at more sugar, if it seems too thick, add a bit more milk. Spread or pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Mix together the cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar, then sprinkle a bit onto the top of each cupcake and indulge!

Blurb:

Plus-sized fetish model and aspiring chef Indigo Hartley has plenty of tattoos and a fiery attitude to match. When she’s offered a job as a sushi model for one of Miami’s trendiest restaurants, she jumps at the chance. Little does this country-mouse-turned-city-vixen know that what starts out as a modeling job will end up the answer to all of her kinkiest fantasies. Three days serving as a sub to this hot chef is too tempting an offer to refuse.

Banner Faust has worked his ass off and sacrificed his love life to become a rock star in the culinary world. On what should be the biggest night of his career, he realizes something is missing from his life—the submissive woman he’s always craved. The curvy new model with the blue-streaked hair and innate submissive nature just might be the one he’s been waiting for. And when he gets her home—and in his bed—he soon realizes three days will never be enough.

Available from : Ellora’s Cave Publishing | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | All Romance eBooks

About Fallon Blake:

Fallon Blake loves to spin stories that explore the romance of dominance and submission or venture into the realms of the paranormal. When she’d not glued to her netbook writing away, you can usually find her in the kitchen whipping up something vegetarian. She loves horror movies, has a soft spot for zombies and cupcakes, and reads everything she can get her grubby hands on.

Find Fallon: Website | Twitter

 

 

 

In The Kitchen With…Lissa

I made a cake over the weekend. It was one of those to-die-for cakes. It was chocolate, coffee, whipped cream, cream cheese, buttermilk, and it melted in my mouth. It was one of the best chocolate cake recipes I’ve ever made and I will be making at least the cake part of it again. Soon. Like next week.

Cappuccino Cake. Just the name brings to mind all sorts of yumminess. I mean, really, how could I, Lissa Matthews, be expected to resist the temptation of a concoction of such a delicious thing? It was gone by the next day and NO, not because I ate it all. My daughter’s friends came over and they had some, my son had a slice, I took several slices to the girls at the dental office, and I had a slice. And we aren’t going to discuss the 4 cupcakes the leftover batter made. Nope. We aren’t.

Before I give you the recipe, I will say I did modify things a little. The cake called for 2 extra large eggs, I used 2 large. I used Olive Oil instead of vegetable oil, and I used 2 cups of Sucanat instead of white granulated sugar. I love the way it works with chocolate recipes.

For the whipped cream cream cheese frosting, it called for frozen whipped topping, thawed of course. I made my own whipped cream for it. It took a little extra work and the end result was a little softer and than had I used the frozen kind. My reasoning was simple…the frozen kind is made from water, corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and high fructose corn syrup. Those are the main ingredients. Mine was made with organic heavy cream, two tablespoons of organic powdered sugar, and real vanilla extract (homemade).

Either way, the cake had to be refrigerated. And was better the next day after making it.

Cappuccino Cake:

For the chocolate cake:

Ingredients:

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

3/4 cups Dutch cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with parchment. Lightly grease the parchment paper and sides of pan with butter or cooking spray.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.

In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.

With mixer still on low, add the hot coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Don’t overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer pans from oven to cooling racks.

After cakes have cooled, carefully turn one layer out onto cake plate.

For the frosting:

Ingredients:

1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup strongly brewed coffee, at room temp

1 (8oz) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

cinnamon and chocolate chips for garnish

Instructions:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until fluffly.

Mix in coffee until well combined.

Fold in whipped topping.

Refrigerate frosting for 30 minutes before spreading on cake.

To Frost Cake:

Turn one cake layer onto serving platter.

Spread 1/2 the frosting over cake.

Top with remaining cake layer and remaining frosting.

Sprinkle cinnamon over top of cake.

Sprinkle chocolate chips around outer edge of cake.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes before slicing.

Store in refrigerator.

http://www.cajunsugarpie.com/2012/04/cappuccino-cake.html

It really is a divine and delicious cake. For the coffee parts, I actually brewed K-cups. LOL… This was a recipe that made this author incredibly happy with every bite!

~lissa